Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Counter Con - Of Sorts

Logo design by Vince Alvendia
On Friday, July 13, as the San Diego Comic Con rages downtown, animator and South East San Diego native Jerry Brice will host and moderate a panel of animation artists and business professionals for the children and teenagers of the South East and inner city communities of San Diego, California.

This is not a Comic Con event, but that’s partly the point. “The San Diego Comic Con is an exclusive event that is hard for even the professional artist to get into,” says Jerry, “so this panel is an effort to extend the excitement of the Comic Con being held downtown into the neglected neighborhoods of South East San Diego, and inspire a child to dream, and to let them know that we do, in fact, care about them.”

Jerry continues, “The goal of the event is to introduce to at least two hundred inner city kids to the very real possibility of pursuing a career in the animation, comic, or game art fields. Guest panelists, whose roads to success started in similar circumstances, will tell the kids how they got to be a pro, and let them know what it took to overcome obstacles, and to achieve their goals in a very competitive and specialized talent-based industry.” 

This will be a lecture-style panel, with projected samples to highlight verbal presentations, with Q and A time to follow.

The confirmed panelists are:

Denys Cowan - legendary DC Comic book artist, founder of Milestone Media, former Senior VP of animation for BET, producer of Static Shock, Boondocks

J. Jones III - music supervisor, composer, producer, writer for Nick Cannon's Ncredible Entertainment

Roland Poindexter - experienced network executive and former Senior Vice President of Original Programming, Animation at Nickelodeon

Matt Allen - Senior Executive Director of Strategic Marketing, NBC Universal Digital Entertainment

David Brown - educator, publisher, author, NAACP Image award winning editorial cartoonist for the LA Sentinel/Watts Times

Julian Chaney – veteran storyboard artist in the animation field, worked on The Proud Family and the new Adult Swim series Black Dynamite

Brad Constantine - Senior Artist/Animator at Sony Online Entertainment and San Diego native.

Jerry L. Brice – educator, animator, director, and producer for Brice Productions

Several of Jerry’s former animation students who are currently professional artist will be in attendance as well.  Jerry is hoping for some surprise guests as well.

If you're going to the Comic Con and would like to join Jerry as a surprise guest, or if you have questions,  e-mail him chacta@gmail.com.

The Inner City Comics, Animation, and Games Art Panel
Friday, July 13, 2012
1:00 to 4:00pm
Tubman/Chavez Center
415 Euclid Ave, (on the corner of Market St. and Euclid Ave.)
San Diego, CA 92102

Two hundred seats are available on a first come basis. It is a free event, courtesy of Brice Productions.  
Jerry Brice
Says Jerry, “I just want to transform any issue a kid may have for not moving forward with their dreams, while at the same time acknowledging some of their personal and financial hardships, because I can relate. Some of the panelist are from this community, or got into the business with my assistance, so we can track it all back to what happened for me here.”


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Animating My Demons

by Signe Baumane
The subject of depression is very important to me, personally.  I have obsessive suicidal thoughts almost every minute of my day.  At age 18, I tried to commit suicide, and was hospitalized. I was diagnosed as manic depressive at 22.  The last time I took pills for my mental affliction was six months after release from the mental hospital. I do not take pills anymore - I can't afford them, and they dull my mind.  The fact that I live and am able to work is a result, partly, of years of hard inner work - I am determined to be happy - and partly because of my education - I have a BA in Philosophy and am trained to think, analyze and persuade. The person I have to persuade the most is myself.
Every day I wake up and have to find a new meaning to my life. Luckily, I have been able to find it.  My three cousins were not as lucky, and they were more successful at their suicide attempts than me. Over the years I have pondered whether there was any connection between us, the suicidal cousins from my father's side of the family.  I started to ask questions and unravel old family secrets.  This is what Rocks In My Pockets, my first feature film, is about. I call it a funny film about depression, but in fact it is sometimes serious, sometimes funny, but overall deeply personal, just like my film Teat Beat of Sex.

You know, I feel that depression has the other side of the coin - creativity and brilliance.  Yes, you struggle through the pain, fuzz, and fog, but there are moments when there is a rush of ideas and images and poetry, excitement!  Our minds need to be constantly occupied with making creative solutions.  Maybe we get depressed because our jobs are so mundane, repetitive, without a challenge to our minds?  But then - I don't really know why we get depressed. I certainly have no reasons to get depressed, but I do.

When you tell a personal story it transcends the personal, it becomes more than just your own feelings, fears and obsessions - it becomes a shared experience.  Once you put your darkest secret in words, the light shines on it. Once light shines on it, the healing begins.  I am a big believer in keeping your inner rooms well lit. Even with all that light there are some corners that are left dark, and under beds and tables there will always be monsters hiding.
So, I don't really have a problem to tell a very personal story. Nothing is personal - we all have been depressed, we all know that feeling. The biggest challenge for me was to describe, in words and visually, how does it feel to be depressed.  The feeling of that unbearable pain - how do you put it in words or images?  How do you successfully share it so that people understand what you mean?  An audience will let me know if I have succeeded at this.

The real problem of this project is that I am telling a story of my relatives, and what is MY truth of the events may not be THEIR truth.  So I changed the names and looks. But I feel that may not save me from the family getting upset.

Technically the project is mixed media, stop motion and drawn animation.  First we do paper mache sets.  Then, with digital photo camera, we shoot them as stop motion, frame by frame pans and zooms.  Later, we combine the pictures of moving backgrounds with hand drawn animated characters on top.
Financially... well well well…don't we all want to know how people get their money for their ambitious projects?!  I'd like to know it too, as my experience is limited to my project only.  The Rocks In My Pockets budget is about $100,000. We got a grant from NYSCA, and a grant from the Jerome Foundation. There were many grants we applied for, but didn't get.  Also, the project is part of the Women Make Movies fiscal sponsorship, which means that every donation to the project is tax deductible. We raised about $10,000 from small donations, and one single larger donation covered the missing hole in the budget.  As the producer of the project, I spend many sleepless nights worrying about money.  It looks as though we might run out after paying music and sound fees, and we still need money for transfers, color corrections, and festival submissions.  Money is the blood in the projects system. If the project runs out of money, it runs out of life.

I had set the completion date for December 21st, 2012, the end of Mayan Calendar, as I find that date ironic and fitting for completing a funny film about depression. But we might not be done with the film by that date, as we were able to secure the music recording only for December, so the future will only begin on December 21, 2012. 
No matter what I do, I get severely depressed twice a year. Having a project actually helps to focus on something other than that inexplicable inner pain and suffering. 
Although lately, I have been mildly depressed about the project. A train of obsessive thoughts go around and around....
"Who do I think I am, doing what I am doing?"
"This is 90 minutes I am asking an audience to sit through!"
"The film will never be liked by more than three people."
"It is too strange, too artistic, too metaphorical to be appreciated by a wider audience." 
"I am sure my voiceover will put off festival programmers after five minutes, and they will turn the film off before allowing it to sink in and take them for the ride."
"If the film is not selected by any film festival, how will I look in the eyes of my backers and my young assistants who came to believe in this project?"
"I should kill myself right now, before the shame of major failure comes and gets me." 
….and so on and so forth.

But, if I had never got this project rolling, I'd be depressed that I never tried it.
So, I guess, if one has a tendency to get depressed, doing or not doing causes the same mental strain, except, by doing you actually get to be doing which is much better than not doing.

"Rocks In My Pockets" trailer from Signe Baumane on Vimeo.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tumblehead Animation

Charlie and Yip
I've been working recently on a independent feature film "My Haunted House", about a perfectly normal kid who lives a perfectly normal life - apart from the fact that he lives in a haunted house with his very strange and highly embarrassing supernatural family. Part of the development process has been to animate a teaser, to explore the overall look and feel of the film and also to establish the visual style. Two of my ex-students from the Animation Workshop in Denmark, Magnus Moller and Peter Smith, created the award-winning Elk Hair Caddis student film in their final graduation year.

Following the success of Elk Hair, Magnus and Peter founded Tumblehead Animation, located in Viborg, Denmark, home to the excellent Animation Workshop and part of a very smart business strategy of growing small start-up studios around the animation school, to develop a new European animation hub drawing in local talent.

Gateway to Tumblehead
The teaser isn't done yet but so far it looks awesome (the still at the top is a small teaser of the teaser) and it is thrilling to work with such talented animators. They take such pride in their work and I am sure that their new venture will be a huge success. - Alex

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cringeable Questions I Am Asked

Whenever I meet someone not in the film industry, there's an undeniable twinge of anxiety.  I know it is just a matter of time before I'm asked what I do for a living.  I'm not ashamed of what I do.  It's just.....the things.....people say......

"My son/daughter likes to draw.  Can he/she come to your studio and show you their drawings?"

"My cousin worked for Disney.  He drove the submarine. Did you ever get to do that?"

"My son/ daughter wants to work for Pixar.  Can you get them a job?"

"I used to draw......when I was a kid."

"You draw EVERY day?  What if you don't feel like drawing?"

"I use to like Flintstones.  Did you ever work on that show?"

"My son/daughter likes that anime stuff.  Did you ever do any of that anime stuff?"

"Must be nice to sit around and draw all day."

"Do you paint every frame, or..........?"

"Do you come up with all the characters, or.......?"

"Do you get money for all those toys or.......?"

"Do you know a lot of movie stars?"

"You should come talk to my first graders.  You could draw Mickey Mouse for them."

"You should come talk to our Red Hats group.  You could draw Mickey Mouse for them."

"Is that ALL you do?"

And so on.  

So when I meet someone new, I know its coming.  The cringeable question.  But once in a while, someone will surprise me.  I'll say I'm an animator and they'll nod and move on to another topic. 

What?  No insipid questions?  No favor requests?  

What an asshole!


T. Dan Hofstedt added this one:  "Don't computers do all that for you now?"

My personal favourite is "What have you worked on that I have seen?"
Because psychic powers are definitely among my skills. - Alex

Kirk Wise added, "What do you mean, 'direct'?"

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lovelace and Babbage - The Graphic Novel

Lovelace and Babbage - by Sydney Padua
My old friend and animation kumrad Sydney Padua has some excellent news for fans of her webcomic - The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.  Pantheon books, publishers of the best selling Maus and Persepolis, have engaged her services to complete a graphic novel of the adventures of her Victorian  heroes. The real Charles Babbage was a 19th century inventor and mechanical engineer who pioneered the concept of a programmable computer. Though he was unable to build it in his lifetime, a working copy now exists in the Science Museum in London. Ada Lovelace was a gifted mathematician and also the daughter of the legendary Lord Byron - mad, bad and dangerous to know.  Sydney's comic has gathered a huge following online and I for one can't wait for the publication of her book. I shall be at the launch party, pestering her for signed copies. - Alex